It’s always bittersweet to see the tomato season end in October (in Minnesota). Relief that the harvesting for the market is over, but sorrow that the fresh bounty is coming to an end. Freezing tomatoes, whole or as a sauce, can keep that fresh flavor going all Winter however. Here’s a few tips plus a bonus recipe for basil pesto that also freezes well.
Freezing Whole Tomatoes
Best for Winter Sauces
More Preserving Methods
Preserving Tomatoes Whole:
For simplicity, there’s nothing quite like freezing whole tomatoes. All I do is wash and pat dry the tomatoes, pop them into gallon-sized freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible, and throw them in the freezer.
I’ve read suggestions to peel them first, but I find that the skins pull off easily as they thaw and/or cook, and with the peel on, they are more easily separated when removed from the freezer.
I primarily freeze Roma tomatoes since I tend to use them in pasta sauces, chili, and other dishes in which their meatier nature is a plus, but any variety can be frozen whole.
Because slicer-type of tomatoes have more water and juice in them, the skins will pull off the Roma types much easier without losing the tomato meat.
Another excellent way to preserve whole tomatoes is by canning them. This step by step for canning whole tomatoes makes it simple so you don’t waste any of these delicious, versatile fruit!
Freezing Tomatoes for Sauces or Salsas
If you have the time to make large batches of tomato sauces, this is another way to preserve the bounty. A little more work on the front end, but less work in the winter when you pull out a bag of frozen sauce ready-to-go.
My go-to freezer tomato sauce is this Mediterranean Freezer Tomato Sauce with Sumac recipe.
Then pull out your frozen tomato sauce in the Winter and use in this robust Italian Puttanesca.
When you are sorting end-of-season tomatoes for preservation, keep in mind the tomatoes that work best for sauces.
Preserving your Basil as a Frozen Pesto
Basil is another end-of-summer harvest to freeze, as the basil purchased in summer at the farmers’ markets is much cheaper and fresher than what you can get at the store in winter.
Basil freezes well when made into a pesto, as it doesn’t discolor as much as when it is frozen alone.
Recipe for Basil Pesto
Basil Pesto for Freezing
- medium size bowl
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 2 Cups tightly packed basil leaves
- ½ Cup of olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons of pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- salt to taste
- ½ Cup freshly grated Parmesan and
- 2 Tablespoons of freshly grated Romano added before serving.
- 3 Tablespoons butter room temperature
- Briefly soak and wash the basil in cold water, and gently pat it thoroughly DRY with paper towels.2 Cups tightly packed basil leaves
- Put the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic, and an ample pinch of salt in the processor bowl, and process to a uniform, creamy consistency.½ Cup of olive oil, 3 Tablespoons of pine nuts, 2 garlic cloves, salt to taste
- If you are making the pesto for the freezer cover it at this point with a layer of olive oil and do not add the cheese and butter.The cheese and butter will be added when it is thawed and before serving.
- When ready to use pesto in your meal, first thaw it out. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the two grated cheeses by hand. When the cheese has been thoroughly mixed in with the other ingredients, mix in the softened butter, distributing it uniformly into the sauce.½ Cup freshly grated Parmesan and, 3 Tablespoons butter, 2 Tablespoons of freshly grated Romano added before serving.
Purchased Tomato Jams, Sauces & Tomato Mustard:
Of course, if you want to turn the preserving over to someone else, you can always purchase a Smoked Tomato Jam, a Romesco Sauce, a Smoked Tomato Shrub Syrup, or a smoked tomato mustard from our online store (HeathGlen)
Other Methods for Preserving Summer’s Produce:
- Easy Green Tomato Pickles
- Low Carb Freezer Tomato Sauce with Sumac
- Preserving Fresh Herbs as Herbal Infused Salts
- Freezing Compound Butters made with Fresh Herbs
- Red Pepper & Eggplant Spread for Cheese Trays & Sandwiches
- Homemade Dandelion Jelly
- Salt & Vinegar Cucumber Chips
- Quick & Easy Pickled Onions
- How to Make Shrub Syrups (cold process vs. hot)
- Sun dried tomato butter
Saturday 18th of June 2016
Can I use plastic containers?
Monday 9th of September 2019
Sure Lesley. Just leave some headspace in whatever container you use as the contents will expand in the freezer.